Upsidedown Living: Death (1 Thess 4:13-18)

I hope you have enjoyed this past week. God has blessed us with an absolutely gorgeous week. The sunshine has been refreshing, the warm air has stimulated our bodies to get outside, exercise and just have that extra motivation to get work done so that we can enjoy our weekends. Some of you have taken advantage of being on spring break to make a few extra memories with your families and children. This is all admirable.

God created this world to be enjoyed. Even this morning we have enjoyed the opportunity to come together with friends and family, share music, pray and celebrate worship. But, what about tomorrow? And the day after? And the day after that? You see, Christianity is not a religion that we simply check off and say, “Yes, I attended church service over the holiday (whether it’s Christmas or Easter).” Christianity is more than a religion; it’s a relationship with a living God. Easter reminds us that God is not static, removed or apathetic towards us. God is active and compassionate toward the world in that He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sin. So, Easter is not about eggs but an empty tomb shouting, “Jesus is alive!” The resurrection changes everything.

We live in a day where religion and religious belief is views as a matter of personal preference. It’s like a buffet line where we can pick and choose what and how much we want and then empty our plates when we feel full. People say, “Well all religions are fundamentally the same so choose what works and feels good to you.” In this worldview truth becomes obsolete because life is based on preference and opinions. But we don’t really believe that. No one wants a world or life where truth is absent.

When you go to your bank teller and you know there is money in the account to withdraw you do not want to hear the teller say “I don’t feel like you have money in your account to withdraw.” We would of course nicely respond, “I don’t care how you feel. I know I have money in my account.” But in this postmodern worldview the teller would continue the conversation saying, “Well, that may be true to you but for me it’s not true.” Obviously, this is over dramatic but this is the logical progression of negating truth. And this is only one of thousands of examples.

In the most important places of our lives we operate based on and desire truth. So, when it comes to the most important question of life and eternity we must not make it an issue of preference or opinion. Religious preference or indifference ends when someone rises from the dead.

But you may doubt the resurrection of Jesus. I would submit to you a simple question – why? Why do you doubt the Bible. The Bible has been around for almost two millennia and is the best selling book for over a century. We have more document evidence than any other historic book to prove the Bible is a reliable source of eyewitness testimony of facts and truth.[1] Listen to one person speak of Christianity:

1 Corinthians 15:1-8 “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than 500 of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”

 

Paul is saying that the gospel (Jesus’ death & resurrection) is true and if you don’t believe it just ask over 500 people who saw it with their own eyes. One person or even a handful of people could perhaps create a lie. But over 500 in addition to the overwhelming results of how history has been dramatically changed because of this occurrence (calendar dating, world religions, personal experiences, etc.). In another place, Paul says that because Christ was resurrected we can have hope in the after-life. When we face death we do not have to grieve as those without hope. The resurrection means that we are united with Jesus Christ in his death and in being raised – we too will rise and be with Jesus and lost loved ones who have believed all through eternity.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore, encourage each other with these words.”

 

Christianity makes the most sense of this world. It does not attempt to remove the reality of suffering, pain, death or evil. It provides the answer for all of these in that these all exist as a result and consequence of human choices. None of these were God’s design or His intention for creation. However, when humanity chose to reject God and remove the truth of His words then these things came into being.

So the question remains: Do you believe it is true that Jesus died and rose from the dead? The answer to this question is not a matter of personal preference. It is a matter of truth and that means there is great hope for this world and more personally, for you.

This world is not the end. There will come a day when Jesus returns and “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the older order of things will have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). To be even more plain, cancer will not have the last word, disease, starvation, tsunamis, earthquakes, senseless violence and war will not have the last word because Jesus Christ will show Himself as King and Ruler over all things only to give life and life more abundant. The tombstone will not be our final address because we will be alive together with Christ. This is the message of Christianity and it is available to all who believe.

Romans 10:9 “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Will you believe?

Are you willing to stake the rest of your life and all of eternity on personal preference and opinions? Or are you ready to establish a firm foundation that cannot be shaken by every wind of circumstance? Today, you can trust in a sovereign God who reigns above all things and has the power to accomplish anything and He has expressed His unconditional love to you by dying and rising. Are you ready to experience this type of living – upsidedown living that is different from everything the world has to offer? Jesus says come…


[1] If you would like to research further check out: http://www.equip.org/articles/bible-reliability, http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/bib-docu.html, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels by Craig Blomberg, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable by F.F. Bruce, or perhaps the most readable is Josh McDowell’s More Than A Carpenter.

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